There will be plenty of emotions in a northwestern Alberta town Saturday night as the Humboldt Broncos play their first game since the tragic bus crash that claimed 16 lives nearly five months ago.
The Broncos will play an exhibition game against the Whitecourt Wolverines in Peace River, the hometown of late Broncos head coach Darcy Haugan, one of the victims of the April 6 crash.
Haugan, who was posthumously awarded the NHL’s Willie O’Ree Community Hero award, spent 12 years coaching Peace River’s North Peace Navigators. Blaine Friedel, one of the organizers of the weekend’s events, spent three years working alongside Haugan.
Friedel told the Alberta Morning News Coach Haugan was a special person.
“Darcy is definitely going to be missed… I don’t think I’ll ever meet [someone like] him again.
“He knows the game very well and was very good at it… The best years of my time, I’ve had with Darcy, because of the memories, his personality.”
Ten players were killed in the bus crash and others suffered serious injuries. With other players earning college contracts, there are many new faces wearing the Broncos jersey this season.
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Friedel had a chance to meet with some of the players and the coaching staff when they arrived on Friday.
“They’re a little bit uncertain to what’s going to be happening here, but they’re ready for it, they’re young men.
“They’ll get through it. They seem excited as well to be getting on the ice and get playing some hockey.”
The Broncos will be playing two games at the Baytex Energy Centre this weekend. The Saturday night game against Whitecourt begins at 7 p.m., and Sunday’s game against Grande Prairie will be at 2:30 p.m.
The Broncos will then head back to Humboldt to prepare for their season opener Sept. 12.
The North Peace Navigators will also host a special memorial event to honour Haugan at the team’s home opener on Sept. 22.
Friedel hopes the games will help the town of Peace River move forward following Haugan’s death.
“This weekend’s just going to be good for everybody.”